“Back in February 2009, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that, in three months’ time, New York City would permanently close Broadway to car and truck traffic in Times Square and Herald Square. The plan would “ease traffic congestion throughout the Midtown grid”, the mayor said.”
This opening paragraph from an excellent article in City Journal is remarkable in so many ways:
First – the belief and understanding that closing a street would ease traffic congestion. And it did. Midtown traffic has improved.
Secondly – Mayor Bloomberg announced he was closing Broadway permanently. He didn’t ask.
“But Bloomberg nevertheless decided against obtaining everyone’s permission before proceeding with the plan—a recipe for inaction. The mayor’s office did hold dozens of meetings with special-interest groups after making the Times Square announcement, and it even made some changes to its plan after hearing suggestions, including permission for cars to turn onto 45th from Seventh Avenue, which gives theatergoers better access to Broadway shows. But “we’re not going to talk about something for a dozen years and maybe finally change it after we’ve crossed every t,” says Jon Orcutt, Sadik-Khan’s policy director. “We’re going in with paint and rocks and see what works.”
“We are going in with paint and rocks and see what works.” This is what a strong Mayor with a strong vision and great team can (and should) do. His transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan literally went to the hardware store and purchased $10 lawn chairs and put them in the street. It was all a huge experiment – and a risk.
And not everything worked perfectly. However, for the most part it did: Traffic improved, quality of life improved, safety improved, and Times Square is better than ever.
All of this happened because Mayor Bloomberg and New York decided to look at its streets from a perspective of quality of life and safety — not just from a perspective of moving traffic.
The result?: Deaths and injuries are down. The streets are much safer. Speed limits have been lowered in many areas to 20 mph. Hundreds of miles of bicycle lanes have been added. A bike share program will begin this summer. 500,000 new tress have been planted – half way to the goal of one million new trees. The Summer Streets program closes 7 miles of New York streets for play, bikes, walking, etc.
San Diego is electing a new mayor in November. Will he have the same vision and willingness to take risk? Do San Diego citizens have the desire and will to change our streets? What will it take to begin looking at our streets from a perspective of quality of life and safety for all users?